Saturday, November 26, 2011

Indistinct Seal - Hu manbe in g, Being What?!

The Good: Excellent voice, Decent instrumentals
The Bad: No distinct lyrics, music or tracks
The Basics: With a homogenous quality to the music and vocals, this album is a prime example of an artist of quality failing to produce something distinct or different. Sad, truly.

Seal's critics of his third album, the oddly spaced Hu manbe in g seem to be pretty unified in their critiques. This will truly be the test of the question "What is the importance of a single?" I say this because out of the Seal albums released to this time - and the one that followed this work - Hu manbe in g was the one that just didn't have a single. Sure, he released "Human Beings," "Latest Craze" and "Lost My Faith" as singles, but if you check out your local music store, they're still there ("Human Beings" peaked at #50 in the UK and #96 in Germany, the others did not chart). Hu manbe in g is a commercial flop and the question is why? Is a single truly that important?

Less important this far after the fact is the question of a single. What matters now is, what is distinctive about this album? On Seal’s debut album (reviewed here!) there was “Crazy” that stood out. On this album, what is distinctive? The problem is, there's no good answer to this on Hu manbe in g. Instead, this album is one cohesive musical experience that progresses track to track with little musical distinction. In short, all of the songs here sound essentially the same. I am able to say this with utmost conviction because I've had the album in my player on continual loop for, as it turns out, two and a half hours now. That's right, I've listened to Hu manbe in g almost four times in a row (it's barely over 51 minutes) and I cannot tell you a single lyric Seal has sung. Not one.

That's sad.

That's what I mean by "indistinct." There is nothing here that jumps out at the listener. There is nothing that demands the listener's attention. There is not a track that screams "I am better than any of the others!" Conversely, this album is so completely homogenous in sound that there are no tracks that are truly inferior to the others either. This is just one long, unending loop. Were I to die tonight, I doubt any of my neighbors would ever notice; this disc would simply become the soundtrack of the neighborhood. It would not offend anyone, it would just melt somewhere into their subconscious and they would live with it.

As an artist, I can say these are not words one wants to hear about one's art. Artists thrive when they make an impression, good or bad. Were this Seal's first album, he would have sunk into anonymity quicker than any b-list celebrity. He wouldn't have even been a one-hit wonder. It's a shame because Seal has some real talent.

This is not the album that showcases his real talents. Or he was just having a bad session. Seal wrote or co-wrote all twelve tracks and none of the lines stick. It's not because they do not have anything to say, either. I went and read Seal's lyrics to Hu manbe in g. He has some decent lyrics. For example, on "Still Love Remains," he apparently sings, "How will I stand / When you turn out the light that shines over me? / . . . How will I live / If you take all the gifts that you have for me?" That's not bad.

I say "apparently sings," because most of Seal's voice is drown out by the production elements on this album. The instrumentals - bass, piano, mild guitars, etc. - overrun his vocals. His voice is harmonized into the music in such a way that his voice is submerged in the music. We hear Seal singing, but it's hard to hear the words he sings. Yes, we hear his voice, but it blends with the ebb and flow of the music, never reaching a crescendo that overrules the sound of the music behind (or above) it.

It's hard to write a lot about an album that leaves such little impression. It's hard not to listen to this and not recognize the quality of the music or even Seal's voice (what can be heard of it), but the problem is that it's a 51 minute drum and synth track that is more hypnotic than musical. It has the elements to contain quality, but it fails to present them well. Like a movie with amazing cinematography whose prime accomplishment is making the viewer fall asleep, Hu manbe in g has elements that are intriguing or of recognizable quality, but it fails to create something with the inherent talent possessed there.

I have no track recommendations one way or the other on this one.

For other former Male Artist Of The Month selections, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Opiate (EP) - Tool
Rumours (2-disc version) – Fleetwood Mac
Actually (2-disc version) – Pet Shop Boys


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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